January 2011 I learned to meditate. Many of you know the story of how I was guided to meditation through a breakdown and how it led to a breakthrough in my life. I was just chatting with a friend the other day about Angela "before meditation" and Angela "after meditation." Suffice to say, meditation has been a life-changing practice which is why I became a teacher.
For over six years I have been teaching individuals and groups how to meditate. Over the past few years something called mindfulness has become ubiquitous and I'm often asked the question, "what's the difference between mindfulness and meditation?"
Here's my take on it.
Meditation is an intentional seated practice that directs your attention inward. The practice cultivates calm, focus and emotional regulation. There are many different types of meditation but I like how Dr. Norman Rosenthal's in his book, Transcendence, boils them down to three main categories: 1) focused attention, 2) open monitoring, 3) automatic self-transcending. Some examples include:
Meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. The mantra meditation method I teach recommends sitting for 20 minutes. But even 5 minutes will do! The point really isn't how long you meditate, but that you practice daily.
These 5 things make meditation easier.
Mindfulness is a practice that you can do anytime, anywhere, with anyone. It's a way to train your attention to be in the here and now instead of wandering around in the past or the future. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” If you have a meditation practice, you're automatically practicing mindfulness. But mindfulness can also be practiced walking to the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, having a conversation, washing your hands, and eating. The ways to practice are endless because mindfulness is how you do whatever it is you're already doing.
Being mindless is the opposite of being mindful. You've probably had the experience of driving home from work and not remembering how you got there. That's mindlessness. Being mindful has tremendous benefits to health and happiness (and enjoying the drive home) but one of my favorite things about being mindful is the impact it has on relationships with others. Mindful people are kind and compassionate, fully present, reflective and in tune with their emotions.
Some examples of mindfulness practices include:
Whichever practice or set of practices you choose, the important thing is that you do it. Knowing about it won't help you, doing it will.